Director: Darren Aronofsky
Of all Darren Aronofsky’s wacky filmography, The Wrestler is the least wacky, a story that refuses to conform to the director’s usual style of shock and allegory. Pi, Requiem, Fountain, Wrestler, Black Swan, Noah, Mother; these are the seven gems in the crown, and if you’re a cinephile you know how important these movies are, how much talent is exposed in these stories, if in an extremely unconventional way. Count me as a huge fan, and although I don’t like every one of his films the same, I always recognize genius. But The Wrestler is a different breed, a more bare bones approach at conveying a message, instead of looking toward existential musings to make the point. It’s also one of Aronofsky’s most honest and very best, so he’s not a one trick pony, he can rein his own imagination in when the occasion calls for it, and he shows that here with a film that cuts deep without Novocaine, a character that is all of us at our darkest moment.
Randy “The Ram” Robinson, which is not his real name, is an aging professional wrestler whose best days are behind him. His body is slowing giving out, finally showing the signs of a life fueled by alcohol and steroids, punished by razor blades and metal chairs. But it’s a profession that Ram loves, a rush that very few get to feel, when the crowd roars as you bleed on the mat, having given everything you have inside you for their entertainment. Now though, Ram is a has-been, a legend to a dwindling few, a relic who used to be an action figure. Health problems might keep him from future fights, but that doesn’t mean his life has to be over, there are still important moments he can spend with the people he loves the best, wrongs he can right if he can only find the words. A budding relationship with a kind stripper and a chance to reconnect with an estranged daughter keep him keeping on, which is all any of us can do, before thet time comes to tap out for good.
I don’t mind the weird (usually), but I also keenly enjoy the not-so-weird, so I guess it’s safe to say that I like Aronofsky from whatever direction I can get him. Black Swan is one of my favorite films of all-time, so The Wrestler can’t quite compete with that, but it’s a strong film all its own, another great addition to a small filmography that’s full of smart successes. It’s a very personal film, very close to the main character; we often follow directly behind him as he moves, like we’re the angel or demon on his shoulder. And he is both good & evil, full of love and making mistakes, he’s not a perfect man, and the story doesn’t end with a glorious happy ending where the world is a golden slumber. This is reality, rough reality, and the plot doesn’t shy away from things like strippers on the lap, needles in the ass, regret, and heartbreak. Who would’ve thought that Mickey Rourke could carry that load, but he does, and in fine style. Also, Marisa Tomei is amazing, both so extremely talented and so perfectly beautiful; she simply blows me away. The wrestling scenes are intense and sad, the pace is expertly fine-tuned, the morals weave in and out; The Wrestler is more than it appears on the surface, but it is also simple and succinct, which is a recipe for applause in my book.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆